Lighting Control Up 50 Percent in New Homes

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According to the 13th Annual State of Builder Technology Market Study from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), eight in 10 builders report they offer structured wiring (84 percent), home theater (80 percent) and monitored security (80 percent) in their new homes offerings.

But the biggest growth categories in 2014 compared to the previous year among builders are led by automated lighting controls (up 50 percent in 2014 vs. 2013), stand-alone video surveillance (up 60 percent) and energy management systems (up 25 percent). Other categories showing growth in 2014 were central vacuum, intercoms and structured wiring.

Image courtesy of cepro.com

Wiring a 4-way circuit using Z-Wave switches from GE/Jasco (Model 45609/45612 Primary & 2-45610 Auxiliaries)

GE Jasco Z-Wave Switches
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OK, here is an oldy but a goody – as they say – How do I wire a 4-way circuit using Ge or Jasco Z-Wave switches? I get this one alot so thought I would get a post about it up on the blog to see if this will help some of you stuck on how to wire these in properly. Here we go…

You need one master (45609 or 45612) and two slaves (45610) to control a circuit with one light at three switches. This is called a 4-way circuit.

You start by determining which switch box has the load in it – that will be where you wire in your Primary or Master switch (either a 45609 or a 45612), and will also need to have a neutral present if you are using a 45609, but not for a 45612 as it doesn’t need one. You also need a Line wire, a Load and a Traveler as well.

At each slave box, where the 45610 goes, you only need a traveler wire going back to the 45609/45612 and a neutral. The line wire is not required at the slave box locations so you can usually cap it off unless it is in the middle of a circuit and is needed for continuity.

That’s it for the wiring. Now just make sure everything works locally, and then you can continue with adding the master or primary to your z-wave network (aka “including” them or completing the “inclusion” process). Only the master switch needs to be included as the 45610’s do not have a z-wave radio in them, all commands are received by the master and sent over the travelers.

Multi-ways are tricky so the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to use a tester and identify every wire’s purpose in every box BEFORE you even begin. You only need specific wires at each box as above, NOT as we used to wire 3-ways with standard switches in the past. To reiterate…

  1. The Master Switch
    1. For a dimming 4-way circuit using a 45612 as your Master –
      1. You need a Line, Load & Traveler at the primary box where the master 45612 is installed.
    2.  For a non-dimming, on/off (relay) switch using a 45609 as your Master –
      1. You need a Line, Load, Neutral & Traveler at the primary box where the master 45609 is installed.
  2. The Slave Switches
    1. The 2 other switch boxes are the slave switches where you install the 45610’s, you ONLY need a traveler and a Neutral. NO LINE, NO LOAD.

Wire colors are not dependable – they are quite often at the sole discretion of the previous electrician or “handyman” who last worked on your wiring.  For this reason, I do not refer to the colors, and neither should you, except as a starting point. I am not saying that you should ignore the colors altogether because if you’re looking for a neutral wire and there is a white wire bundled with one or two others and shoved into the back of the box, chances are pretty good that those are neutrals, and I am sure you will be fine to pigtail another chunk of white wire into that bundle and off you go.

But, if you test first and find that one of the black wires (or pink ones! Oh No, now what! to make my point about colors) does not seem to have 120 Volts running through it, you can still adjust what the “actual” purpose of that wire is (its probably a load wire in this scenario) and save yourself some time and aggravation by not frying the switch, or even worse, electrocuting yourself.

Multi-way circuits can be difficult to get your head around, although HA multi-way circuits are easier to do, imo, then the old ones, but if you follow my advice as above, I hope it will help you make this important jump in changing your mindset when wiring 3-ways, 4-ways, or 20-ways!  And, remember…

IF ANY OF THIS SCARES YOU, OR YOU THINK IT MAY BE A BIT OVERWHELMING, THEN PLEASE CALL AN ELECTRICIAN!

Thank you for letting us, “automate YOUR world”!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Using Linear Z-Wave dimmer switches with dimmable LED’s

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Everybody these days is concerned about energy conservation, not only for a green planet but also in their own homes.  One of the easiest things you can do to conserve energy in your home, is convert your existing light bulbs from the horribly inefficient incandescent light bulbs to LED’s or CFL’s.

I have been getting a lot of questions lately regarding the use of LED bulbs with Z-Wave dimmer switches, so I wanted to post some of the results of some tests that I completed recently in my office to help those of you with questions on where to start and what type of bulb and switches to use.  I will expand more in future posts on additional bulbs and switches, but for now I am posting the results of my tests using three common brands of dimmable LED’s (yes you DO need to use “dimmable” LED’s) wired into circuits being controlled by a Z-Wave dimmer switch, Model WD500Z-1 by Linear Corp.

Here are the results of my tests…

1) Cree 6W Dimmable LED (450 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker but hard to control on lower spectrum of wattage (close to off or 5-10%)

2) Philips 8W Dimmable LED (470 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker

– Good control at all dim levels.

3) EcoSmart 9W Dimmable LED (650 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker

– Good control at all dim levels.

Now there is no guarantee that buying these brand of bulbs and these switches will absolutely work for you in your environment, as every home is wired differently and may have other mitigating circumstances, but at least this is something for you to start with. I would recommend that you get one switch and one LED dimmable bulb and hook everything up properly then test to see if it works for you in your home environment and that you are happy with how the bulb and switch work together and with their performance.

These tests were done on my test bench in my office under perfect conditions, I did not do anything but wire up the switches and screw in the LED’s. I have a VeraLite controller as well as HomeSeer but did not set them up within either controller as I wanted an unrestricted unbiased test using a standard GE Z-Wave remote controller and/or and Aeon Labs Minimote, so those were what I used for my tests. That’s not to say you couldn’t improve the step rates and presets with Vera or another controller to improve the performance even more, as I am sure you could.  Also, the more load you add to your final circuit – ie: the more LED bulbs – the better the performance will most likely be as I only used one bulb as noted in each test above to ensure I was giving you tests based upon the worst case scenario. More often than not, multiple bulbs with a total higher load (usually above 40 Watts) than what I used will afford better results and improved dimming than a lower load like I used.  Again, please follow my advice and conduct some tests on your own before going out and buying dozens of bulbs and a bunch of switches only to find out later that they do not work very well in your home.

Good luck on your fight to save the planet and stay tuned for more test results in future posts!  Thanks for letting us “automate YOUR world”!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

 

GE Jasco Z-Wave Model 45612WB & LAB Dimmer Switches have been discontinued!

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April 2/2014 Update: Jasco Products has decided that they no longer want their JASCO branded products to be sold direct to consumers. They have indeed discontinued the 45612LAB line of products as well as ALL lab (light almond) colored switches and dimmers but are replacing them with the 45712 line of dimmers and soon the 45709 models. The 457XX series models are JASCO branded and will feature interchangeable colored faceplates but will only be sold to Contractors, Installers and Integrators. Only the GE brand in retail packaging will be available to retail customers.

 

The caveat here is twofold. One, with the new 457XX series switches no longer available for sale to retail customers, this limits the average consumer to a product line consisting of only 2-wire dimmers model 45612 & 45613 3-way switch kits for incandescent lights only. Second, retail customers are only left with one color choice, white, until the new 457XX series from JASCO replace the GE line around the end of the summer.

 

Original Post dated March 17, 2014;  The Jasco 45712 Z-Wave dimmers came in today, they have been redesigned from a 2-wire to a 3-wire dimmer now, requiring a neutral. They are now LED and CFL compatible so that should shake up the market a bit! We tested them really quickly with a dimmable LED today and they work great! I will try to get some more of my real world tests completed for you as soon as I have a chance but they definitely do work pretty good on the one LED I tested now that they have that neutral connection – what a difference.

 

Plus, they now come with interchangeable faceplates in both White and Light Almond.

 

The 45612WB and 45612LAB 2-wire dimmers are now discontinued.

New Product! Leviton VRMX1 Universal Dimmer for LED’s & CFL’s in stock now!

Leviton VRMX1 Universal Dimmer
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The answer to all your dimming needs, for ALL loads including dimmable LED’s and CFL’s! On sale now and in stock for $89 free shipping!

 

The VRMX1 supports a universe of lighting applications including local and remote dimming control for incandescent, dimmable LED and CFL, halogen, and magnetic low voltage. The highly advanced Vizia RF+ device provides two-way feedback, is scene capable, includes 49 different fade rates and features user pre-sets for powering on and minimum brightness.

 

We expect these to be a hot seller for all you Leviton fans so pick up a couple before they are sold out. We only have limited stock on hand for now, but more are on the way so act quickly.

 

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Controlling X-10 devices with a VeraLite from Mi Casa Verde using IR and a USB-UIRT

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Very cool project I just completed yesterday as a result of doing some homework for a customer of mine relating to the use of IR through my Mi Casa Verde Veralite Z-Wave Controller/Gateway (click that link if you need a VeraLite, we are having a 10% off sale on both them and the Vera3 right now!)

In a nutshell, what I managed to do was to be able to control my X-10 devices by transmitting X-10 signals through my USB-UIRT which was plugged into the Veralite, into a 3rd party version of the old, discontinued IR-543 which I had kicking around for testing IR devices that we sell in one of our stores.  Worked great!

Normally you would need an Insteon Modem 2413U that you plug into the VeraLite and then configure it to work as an Insteon controller and send Insteon commands.  This also would allow you to control X-10 devices because Insteon is backwards compatible with X-10.  These cost about $80 on Amazon or directly from Smarthome.  What I did eliminated the need for the 2413U modem in my setup because I already use a number of IR-543’s with my universal remotes to control X-10 lights and appliances.  When I started trying to get the IR working on Vera I noticed that there was an IR command set for X-10.  I wondered if it might be similar to the IR codesets that universal remotes use within the auxiliary mode to send X-10 commands over IR.  Low and behold, that is exactly what it seemed to do!  I used the built-in virtual remote keypad inside the Vera, dialed in my house code on the IR-543, punched in the unit code inside Vera and A-1 was up and running!  A-2 was another keypunch away and that was all I needed to know.  Now for some more testing to see what else I can do with it!

Oh, btw, It also allowed me to control X-10 from my Android smartphone using the Vera Mobile app I had already installed!  Worked exactly the same as the Vera Internet GUI on my PC!  More software apps for Vera also available on our Home Automation Software page.

Very cool learning day!  Can’t wait to experiment with Z-wave scene now and using IR commands to control A/V devices as scenes triggered from z-wave events.  More to come on that as well.

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Using Leviton 2-Wire Z-Wave dimmer switches with dimmable LED’s

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One of the easiest things you can do to conserve energy in your home, is convert your existing light bulbs from the horribly inefficient incandescent light bulbs to LED’s or CFL’s.

Here are some more test results using Dimmable LED bulbs with Z-Wave dimmer switches, specifically using four common brands of dimmable LED’s wired into circuits being controlled by a Z-Wave dimmer switch, Leviton Vizia RF – Model VRI06.  Now the results  are not that great as this is a two-wire dimmer but here goes nonetheless.  Maybe these results will help someone who cannot use a 3-wire dimmer if they do not have neutrals pulled into their switch boxes.

Here are the results of my tests…

1) Cree 6W Dimmable LED (450 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full off ok but brightening to 100% requires holding the dimmer on for a while longer than normal to get to 100%, otherwise it is fine as far as smoothness goes.

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise or humming

– no flicker but hard to control on lower spectrum of wattage (close to off or 5-10%)

2) Philips 8W Dimmable LED (470 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full off ok but brightening to 100% requires holding the dimmer on for a while longer than normal to get to 100%, otherwise it is fine as far as smoothness goes.

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise or humming

– no flicker but hard to control on lower spectrum of wattage (close to off or 5-10%)

– overall the same performance as the Cree above, except it seemed like the dimming steps were somewhat smoother.

3) EcoSmart 9W Dimmable LED (650 Lumens)

– Dimming steps a little rough.

– Dims only to 20% and flickers slightly, you need to hold the dimming a second for full off. Brightening to 100% requires holding the dimmer on for a while longer than normal to get to 100%.

– Resume dim good at only >40%.  Doesn’t seem to work at all below that.

– no discernible noise or humming

3) GE 11W Dimmable LED (800 Lumens)

– Dimming steps OK.

– Dims only to 30% then you need to hold the dimming a second for full off. Will not dim up from off, Brightening to 100% ok only after being switched on, THEN dimmed up.

– Resume dim is good.

– no discernible noise or humming

– Very little flicker if any and good control at all levels.

Now there is no guarantee that buying these brands and these switches will absolutely work for you in your environment, as every home is wired differently and may have other mitigating circumstances, but at least this is something for you to start with. I would recommend that you get one switch and one LED dimmable bulb and hook everything up properly then test to see if it works for you in your home environment.

These tests were done on my test bench in my office under perfect conditions, I did not do anything but wire up the switches and screw in the LED’s. I have a VeraLite controller as well as HomeSeer but did not set them up within either controller as I wanted an unrestricted unbiased test using a standard GE Z-Wave remote controller and an Aeon Labs Minimote, so those were what I used for my tests. That’s not to say you couldn’t improve the step rates and presets within Vera to improve the performance even more, as I am sure you could.

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Using Evolve Z-Wave dimmer switches with dimmable LED’s

Evolve LRM-AS Z-Wave LED & CFL Dimmer Switch
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Everybody these days is concerned about energy conservation, not only for a green planet but also in their own homes.  One of the easiest things you can do to conserve energy in your home, is convert your existing light bulbs from the horribly inefficient incandescent light bulbs to LED’s or CFL’s.

I have been getting a lot of questions lately regarding the use of LED bulbs with Z-Wave dimmer switches, so I wanted to post some of the results of some tests that I completed recently in my office to help those of you with questions on where to start and what type of bulb and switches to use.  I will expand more in future posts on additional bulbs and switches, but for now I am posting the results of my tests using three common brands of dimmable LED’s (yes you DO need to use “dimmable” LED’s) wired into circuits being controlled by a Z-Wave dimmer switch, Model LRM-AS by Evolve Guest Controls.

Here are the results of my tests…

1) Cree 6W Dimmable LED (450 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker but hard to control on lower spectrum of wattage (close to off or 5-10%)
2) Philips 8W Dimmable LED (470 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker

– Good control at all dim levels.

3) EcoSmart 9W Dimmable LED (650 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker

– Good control at all dim levels.

Now there is no guarantee that buying these brands and these switches will absolutely work for you in your environment, as every home is wired differently and may have other mitigating circumstances, but at least this is something for you to start with. I would recommend that you get one switch and one LED dimmable bulb and hook everything up properly then test to see if it works for you in your home environment.

These tests were done on my test bench in my office under perfect conditions, I did not do anything but wire up the switches and screw in the LED’s. I have a VeraLite controller as well as HomeSeer but did not set them up within either controller as I wanted an unrestricted unbiased test using a standard GE Z-Wave remote controller and an Aeon Labs Minimote, so those were what I used for my tests. That’s not to say you couldn’t improve the step rates and presets within Vera to improve the performance even more, as I am sure you could.

Good luck on your fight to save the planet and stay tuned for more test results in future posts!  Thanks for letting us “automate YOUR world”!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Incandescent Light Bulbs are History as of 1/1/2014

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Hi all you Home Automation enthusiasts out there!  I wanted to make sure that you were aware of the upcoming deadline for incandescent light bulbs. On January 1st, 2014, it will be illegal to manufacture or import 40 and 60 watt incandescent bulbs in the US.  This signifies the end of the three year phase out of incandescent bulbs which started with 100 Watt bulbs, followed by 75 Watt bulbs a year later, in addition to various other types of energy inefficient lights. This will basically be it for incandescent’s now, they will be available until supplies run out across the country, but after that, no more except for a few lower wattages.

The reason for the phase-out is that incandescent bulbs are very inefficient when it comes to energy usage and the process they use to create light.  Sorry Mr.Edison!  Basically, incandescent bulbs heat an element inside called a filament to the point at which it is so hot that it glows, emitting light of a certain luminescence, based upon the wattage.

Here is a quick example why it was time for them to go.  I went to Home Depot last month and bought a 9 Watt LED bulb that gives off the equivalent of a 65 Watt incandescent bulb.  Now this LED will cost me  quite a bit more to buy, I think it was about $15.00, but it will last approximately 22 years if used for 3 hrs a day!  Thats a pretty huge return on your $15 investment, but don’t forget about the long term savings in electricity.  This LED only uses 9 Watts of power compared to a 65 Watt incandescent, just simple math alone makes it over 7 times more energy efficient.  Plus it is also dimmable as well, so can be used with dimmable z-wave switches too!  Be sure to read my next post in that regard, coming out in a week or so.

If you would like to read more of the specifics of the final phase out deadline, here is an article from CE Pro magazine, a post entitled “Inefficient Incandescent Light Bulb Phase Out Complete”  from the Light Directory newsletter,or you can read one of our posts of the article on our social sites, listed above, just do a search for the word, “incandescent”.  Make sure you either stock up on those incandescent’s or contact us to help you make the transition to LED’s or fluorescents.  We are more than happy to help – also, keep an eye pealed for my upcoming post on using Z-Wave switches for hardwired lighting and what switches work with different load types, I hope you will find it interesting as well as helpful.

HA World Online – “automating YOUR world”

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

What is Home Automation – Z-Wave Lighting Control (Blog Post 8)

Blog Z-Wave Lighting Control
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Lighting control, as we discussed last post is probably the simplest and most common manner of entry into the home automation market for most residential users. Plug-in lighting and appliance control is easily the quickest way for newcomers to get into controlling their lights, for Z-Wave as well as for almost ANY protocol or type of automation.

However, plug-in lights or lamps and plug-in appliances like TV’s, ceiling fans or air conditioners are obviously only a small percentage of the devices that are begging to be controlled by your home automation system. What about all the hardwired lights in every room of your home? Some are in your living room ceiling or on the wall as sconces, some are in your kitchen and might be fluorescent lights or maybe recessed lights, even under cabinet task or ambiance lighting. Don’t forget your bedroom or dining room which may have dimmers or ceiling fans too! There are many, many scenarios for the control of hardwired installed lighting in the home, and Z-wave is the perfect application to control these systems, very easily and affordably as well.

You do need to have some electrical wiring experience if you want to add this type of control to your home, but it is definitely a good place for a DIY er to begin if you have that kind of experience, and Z-Wave devices are certainly a good candidate for the DIY’er because of the inherent wireless properties of the protocol. This doesn’t mean you can’t hire an electrician to do the install, alot of people do hire a professional electrician to install the switches but quite often the homeowners make the purchase of the varying devices according to their uses and applications by themselves. An example of this is if they want to bring in their electrician to replace all the standard switches and in their living rooms that currently control the low voltage or LED recessed can lighting with z-wave controllable ones, they will go ahead and buy switches that are capable of controlling that type of lighting load ahead of time, ready for him to install when he makes his next service call.

Lighting and the types of loads is going to be my next topic of discussion as lighting loads are very often where the most problems occur when it comes to DIY installations. Please check back soon as I continue my series on Home Automation, and specifically on the applications of Z-wave to lights and appliances.

Kelly R. Foster – HA World